Written by Scott Atkinson for 7 News on July 9, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWNY) – As President Trump comes under fire for his handling of a Russian plot to kill U.S. troops, one of his vocal defenders attacks “illegal leaks to the media.”

North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik, speaking at a House Armed Services committee meeting Thursday, said she is “gravely concerned about the damage that illegal leaks to the media have done to our force protection and national security as a whole.”

Stefanik’s comments come after the New York Times and other news organizations revealed U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia secretly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan who killed American soldiers – and that the Trump White House knew about it.

The White House has denied President Trump was ever briefed on the plot, and has said the evidence was inconclusive.

Stefanik is one of a handful of Trump allies who was briefed on the matter early, and she has not publicly questioned what the president did or did not know.

Instead, she has attempted to shift the debate from the role, if any, of the Trump White House to the way the information was made public.

At Thursday’s Armed Services Committee hearing, Stefanik asked Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to “discuss the damage illegal leaks have on our ability to collect intelligence, on our force protection measures, because I’m very concerned the damage that illegal leaks have in general when it comes to our national security.”

Esper’s response: “The illegal leaks are terrible.”

“It hurts our national security, it jeopardizes our troops and it is just damaging to our government and our relationship with our allies and partners.”

Stefanik also questioned General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who acknowledged that Russia continues to involve itself in Afghanistan and that protecting U.S. forces is “the number one priority for every one of us, absolutely.”

You can read the full article at https://www.wwnytv.com/